Max Stoller

I'm an analyst and programmer at Lerer Ventures.


Lerer Ventures’ Investment in Soylent

I’m excited to announce that Lerer Ventures has invested in Soylent, a startup that’s working on nutritionally complete beverages. I mentioned Soylent in my second blog post:

I’d much rather talk about Bitcoin, Soylent, and Drones than I would the next Instagram.

After that post, my friend Jack Altman reached out and offered to put me in touch with Rob Rhinehart, the founder of Soylent. Nicola and I had a call with Rob in July and were immediately absorbed by the vision. Over the past three months, the LV team got to know Rob and did some deep thinking about the opportunity.

We think Soylent fits in with the future. I realize it’s a little out there, and even controversial for some, but think beyond a one-size-fits-all meal replacement, and consider customizable formulas based on a person’s profile. Countless variables could make up this profile, but individual physical attributes (such as weight and height), biochemical traits, and personal health goals (such as weight loss or muscle gain) could be obvious inputs.

A segment of the broader community has been quick to write it off, but I think Soylent may be a prime example of an idea that seems so outlandish that it actually makes sense.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve followed the growth of the Soylent community on both the official forum and the unofficial subreddit r/soylent. It’s reminiscent of the early passionate communities that form around open source software. With the community’s feedback, Soylent is iterating on the core formula in preparation for a v1 release, and in the meantime, hundreds of “forks” inspired by the original have been created. There’s even an official GitHub for Soylent with 750 user-created recipes. Nutrition hacking. The potential danger of open source nutrition has not escaped me, and I recognize that this is an enormously complex vision, but Rob is taking a deeply thoughtful approach that we believe in.

We’re proud to be a part of the journey.



In my first blog post, I wrote:

I’m most interested in consumer web, mobile, collaborative consumption, and developer tools.

I’ve since been jaded by six months of venture capital. After hundreds of pitch meetings, I find myself less interested in these spaces and more captivated by audacious, even outlandish, visions. I’d much rather talk about Bitcoin, Soylent, and Drones than I would the next Instagram. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

I’m going to start posting ideas for startups that I’d like to fund. The first of which is in the drone industry. There’s no doubt that this is going to be a huge industry1, but the uncertainty around regulations makes it difficult to gauge the timing of the market.

Despite this uncertainty, I think there’s an opportunity to invest at the platform layer. I’m looking for companies that can ride the wave of the developing market. I’ve seen a few startups that are working on vertical applications of drones (e.g. agriculture, freight transportation, etc.), but I don’t think the market is mature enough to support them. I’d much rather invest in companies that these vertical players build on.

I’m certainly not the first person to come to this conclusion. Airware was well received, and I’m sure it had something to do with its position in the stack. But I don’t think I’m too late.

If you’re working on a company that will thrive with the growth of the drone market, I’d love to talk to you.

h/t to Jordan for teaching me how to think about this.


Joining Lerer Ventures

I couldn’t be more excited to say that I’m joining Lerer Ventures as an analyst. I’ve never thought my job title would include that word, but that’s the best part. I’m excited by the new perspective and new set of challenges.

I’ve always loved to build products, whether it be at a startup or on my own. I’m thrilled to be able to continue to do that, but from the other side of the table. Instead of working on one project, I will indirectly have my hands in many. I hope to satisfy the rest of this desire by hacking venture capital. More on that later. The point is, I’m not fully giving up Eclipse (or Sublime Text) for Excel. That will never happen.

My primary responsibility is to meet and help entrepreneurs. If you’re working on an interesting project, I’d love to chat with you about it. To be clear, I am looking for investments, but I’m more than happy to meet even if a round is not in your roadmap. Students, this includes you.

I’m most interested in consumer web, mobile, collaborative consumption, and developer tools.

Email me if you want to hang.